Lindsey Mendick and the Battle with the Bottle at Jupiter Artland

Lindsey Mendick, 'Sh*tfaced' (2023), installation view, nightclub toilets, ceramic
Installation view, nightclub toilets, ceramic

Lindsey Mendick, Sh*tfaced

10:00 - 17:00

From: 15 Jul 2023

To: 1 Oct 2023

Jupiter Artland
Bonnington House Steadings
Near Wilkieston
Edinburgh & the Lothians
EH27 8BY

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‘I learned to recognise that, of the two natures that contended in my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, that man is not truly one, but truly two.’The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Based partly on Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic morality tale, Sh*tfaced explores Lindsey Mendick’s love/hate relationship with alcohol: her own dual personality, ‘the Drunk Me and the Sober Me’. With graphic imagery, three interlinking art installations and a film, she focuses on the dark Hyde side of our contemporary binge-drinking lifestyle with subversive, self-deprecating humour.

Artist, ceramicist, film maker Lindsey Mendick
Artist, ceramicist and film maker Lindsey Mendick

‘Duality is in all of us. We’re neither fully good or bad, those gritty nuances of self. I was drawn to the story of Jekyll and Hyde because it resonates deeply with my inner struggles I face day to day. My intense shame about how messy I am as a human’. – Lindsey Mendick

Mendick’s personal and literary-inspired journey starts in a dimly-lit room at the Steadings Gallery where a diorama model on a snooker-style table depicts a nightclub with a glittering disco ball hanging above.

Lindsey Mendick, diorama, 'Dante's Inferno, (1)', ceramic and other materials
Diorama, ‘Dante’s Inferno, (1)’, ceramic and other materials

Two dramatic scenes feature dozens of miniature clay figures, contrasting the sociable, party-goers on one side, with the wild debauchery of Dante’s Inferno on the other. Dante’s poem describes Nine Circles of Hell, the sins of human nature – Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. Like an X-rated doll’s house for adults, it’s exquisitely crafted – tiny glasses, tables and chairs, drinkers, dancers, burlesque performers, angels, half-human pigs and devils.

Lindsey Mendick, diorama, 'Dante's Inferno, (2)', ceramic and other materials
Diorama, ‘Dante’s Inferno, (2)’, ceramic and other materials

Next door, step down to the toilets where the dazzling, black and white zigzag design makes it difficult to focus, with the optical illusion giving the distorted sensation of the room swaying, as if you have had a few drinks too many. This is a life-sized, unisex bathroom, urinals with dripping water and lavatory cubicles, ceramic tiles scratched with love-heart messages and a condom/ Tampax vending machine.

Lindsey Mendick, 'Sh*tfaced' (2023), installation view, nightclub toilets, ceramic
Installation view, nightclub toilets, ceramic

Imagine the nightmarish scenario of alcohol-induced surreal hallucinations: wash hand basins squirming with snakes and squid, and shellfish soap dishes brimming with cigarette butts. As well as decorated flowers and sculpted gargoyle faces, the horrific head of the Gorgon Medusa, who in Greek myth was transformed into a vicious snake-haired monster, stares out from a toilet bowl.

Installation view, washhand basin, ceramic
Installation view, washhand basin, ceramic

Although rather unnerving to observe, it’s brilliantly conceived, with exaggerated, allegorical fantasy, to recreate the experience of the aftermath of a crazy club night – empty wine bottles galore and discarded handbags, stuffed with a takeaway kebab and cigarettes.

Nightclub toilets, handbag, ceramic
Nightclub toilets, handbag, ceramic

Next, a short stroll through the woodland to a flower garden and the neo-baroque Ballroom, where a long-mirrored banquet table features twelve guests at a dinner party like the Last Supper. This section of the showcase is titled I tried so hard to be good.

'I tried to hard to be good', ballroom installation
‘I tried so hard to be good’, ballroom installation

The characters are represented by ornate glazed ceramic vases, expressing not so much a head or face, but the body, in elaborate, period costumes: lace ruff collars, tight corsets, waistcoats bursting buttons, a fan clutched to a large bosom. And of course, bottles of booze on the table and cigarettes protruding from lips.

I tried so hard to be good (2023), Installation view, Vase dinner guest, glazed ceramic
‘I tried so hard to be good’, installation view, vase dinner guest, glazed ceramic
'I tried so hard to be good' (2023), installation view, vase with fan, glazed ceramic
‘I tried so hard to be good’, installation view, vase with fan, glazed ceramic

One figure is recognisable, from the fat cigar: Winston Churchill, whose appetite for alcohol all day, every day is legendary – ‘I drink champagne at all meals, buckets of claret, whisky and soda in between.’

'I tried so hard to be good', installation view (Churchill) glazed ceramic
‘I tried so hard to be good’, installation view (Churchill) glazed ceramic

An integral part of Sh*tfaced is a 25-minute video, Shame Spiral, screened in the old Dovecot. Narrated by Lindsey Mendick and her partner Guy Oliver, this is a personal, often painful confession describing their shared euphoric enjoyment of alcohol, but then the downside of a hangover, not remembering the night before – ‘What did I do?’. The scenario moves from their home, breakfast in bed, clearing bottles and washing up after a party, to a lively bar for karaoke night.

Scene from documentary 'Shame Spiral'
Scene from documentary ‘Shame Spiral’

Lindsey admits to being reliant on a drink to be the life and soul of the party, feeling the ‘Giddy rush of joy. I am here, I am happy. I can’t do moderation. Pour me another – anything but Chardonnay. Booze makes everything better… until it makes it worse.’

This mesmerising mini-movie clearly illustrates the dichotomy she feels, trying so hard to be good, but drawn to embrace her vulnerable dark side. This dramatic documentary should be shown and entered for an award at a film festival.

Epic in scale and artistic creativity, Sh*tfaced is an inspirational masterpiece created with heartfelt honesty, theatrical imagination and satirical wit. ‘The secret to happiness is a small ego. And a big wallet. Good wine helps, too. But that’s not really a secret, is it?’ – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Lindsey Mendick graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2017 and is based in Margate. Sh*tfaced is her first solo exhibition in Scotland. With her partner, the artist Guy Oliver, Mendick initiated Quench Gallery in Margate to provide vital support for early career artists through exhibitions and mentoring.

An Edinburgh Art Festival event, Jupiter Rising a party curated by Lindsey Mendick & Bonjour – will take place on Saturday 19th August, 6pm – 1pm.

With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review. Photo credits: Elliot Hatherley, Neil Hanna and John McKenzie.

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